AbaQulusi Hospital staff describe their woes

Johann Lubbe responses to the article in the Vryheid Herald on January 25

It is with disappointment that I have to correct and assist you in reporting the full truth regarding the happenings at AbaQulusi Private Hospital.

Firstly, none of the staff were appointed in 2016. All staff were appointed in 2017, commencing in February of said year.

The article reports a half-truth regarding staff salaries which remain unpaid, to this date. The article reports that Mr Thami Mlotshwa met with all staff in November to arrange that only half of November’s salaries would be paid. This is not true. What happened is as follows:

– Mr Thami Mtshwa failed to pay staff salaries on the due date. Staff became uneasy, requesting an explanation.

– We were then informed by the person in HR that there was a ‘glitch’ at the bank and that the salaries would be paid that next day, as soon as the ‘banking problems’ would be resolved.

Needless to say, our salaries were not paid that next day.

ALSO READ: 18700 CV’s received for AbaQulusi Private Hospital, more vacancies to be advertised soon

AND: PREVIEW: Staff retrenched as funding dries up for AbaQulusi Private Hospital

It was only on December 1 (Friday), that Mr Mlotshwa approached the staff, and informed them that he would pay half of the November salaries, and the other half on December 20 together with December’s salary. He assured all the staff members that there were no financial problems and that he had a small particular challenge to overcome. On this said day, the first of two trucks were busy loading off x-ray equipment at the hospital. Myself, Santa and certain other staff were reluctant in agreeing to this arrangement. Yet we were not given any other options. Our half-day salaries were only paid on the night of December 2 – not on time, as reported by the article. By this time, all our debit orders had already gone through, some of them, unpaid.

We were given leave from the 15th December and were sent home. Came December 20 no salaries were received at all> Not the November half, neither the December salary. It is then that certain staff gathered – three in total, to approach the Dept of Labour to ask for assistance. I, myself, were not a part of this group, however, I approached Solidarity and requested they negotiated a date and amount as we were desperate at this point in time to buy food and pay arrear accounts. I believe a representative of the Labour Department agreed that he will call Thami and negotiate payment as well.

The problem at this point in time was that we did not have his phone number or e-mail address. I went to his x-ray practice in Landdrost Street, only to find out that he is on leave and out of town. This, despite him saying to us earlier, that he would be available at the hospital all of December, should there be any queries. I, personally, tried to call him numerous times, but he didn’t answer his phone. I looked him up on Facebook, and left him a message on Facebook with the following message: Dear Thami, we haven’t received our salaries. Is there a problem? I received no response from him.

I resorted to handing his e-mail address over to Solidarity, who in turn, sent him a “Demand of Payment” e-mail, requesting him to pay us by Friday at the latest. This e-mail was in Afrikaans. He sent an e-mail back to Solidarity stating he does not understand Afrikaans. Solidarity sent him a second e-mail in English, demanding our salaries fro December and our November half-salaries be paid by Friday December 22.

He did not respond.

I decided to send him a mail from my personal mail address, once again asking “Thami, we did not receive our salaries. Is there a problem?

He eventually replied on Friday, December 22, saying that he ‘received an e-mail from my legal advisor and he will give feedback to my legal advisor, seeing that I chose that route..”

We received our salaries for December only on the night of December 22. Not our November half-salaries at all. The payment was followed by an sms, saying our November half-salaries will be processed with our January salaries and we we’ll receive our November half salaries at the end of January.

We further received emails, inviting us to attend a retrenchment counselling on Wednesday, December 27 from 8am in the morning.

Having no one to look after our children anymore, we attended this meeting on December 27, and showed up at 8am sharp, as per the e-mail. Despite the fact that HR Management and the CEO saw us with our children there, they delayed this meeting until 11am. We were then given the opportunity to ask questions at this meeting. Thami Mlotshwa was not present at this meeting.

Some of the questions asked at this meeting were as follows:

– When did you decide to retrench us?

– When did you run into financial trouble?

– Where did the money for our salaries come from?

– What other avenues have you explored?

– Did you apply for “business rescue” with the Dept of Labour?

– Who is this so called board of directors?

When we returned to work on January 15, we were called into a late meeting, so our questions could be answered.

The answers to the questions were as follows and relayed from Thami, needless to say, absent from the meeting

Q When did you decide to retrench us?

A December 22

Q When did you run into financial trouble?

A December 22

Q Where did the money come from?

A “Reserves”

Q What other avenues have you explored?

A I paid you from my personal finances.

Q Did you apply for “business –rescue?”

A No answer was supplied.

Q Who is the board of directors?

A Dr Mltoshwa is the only operational one.

Estella, you will agree with me that the above answers are quite contrary to his previous story he told the paper, wherein he said a complete 3 part budget has been laid out, which was completely funded by the IDC.

A week later we were called in. This date was Tuesday, January 23. We were informed that our services had been terminated and that we would not be paid at the end of January, contrary to his previous promises.

Consider that we have not been paid from December 22. The staff are in a lot of financial trouble.

According to an agreement he wanted all of us to sign, we will only get paid on February 14, and that, not even all the salaries owing to us, and not all the leave-pay, or compensation due to us.

It is only then on January 24 that the staff went to the CCMA for intervention. Contrary to the article, wherein he says, staff went to the CCMA previously. At none of these retrenchment meetings was Thami Mlotshwa present. Not even one!

He says in the article that only Mascon stayed loyal to him, yet Mascon has withdrawn each and every worker from the site, long before Vinko removed their air conditioners! All contractors removed their labourers, staff, equipment and goods, solely due to non payment. In fact, when the premises became over grown with weeds and grass, four staff members decided to take matters in their own hands and those four staff members brought their own tools and equipment to the hospital to cut the grass and dig out the weeds and overgrown bushes.

Those four staff members are:

– Sr Eleanor Duvel

– Sarita Lubbe

– Sr Anna van Wyk

– Johann Lubbe

We have cut the grass, pulled out weeds and cleaned up the premises ever since September. It became overgrown again during December as Thami Mlotshwa didn’t maintain our work. These four staff members have shown more loyalty and hard work than any of the other staff, because, when the other staff were asked to come and help us, their answer was simply..”We were not appointed to cut grass..”

Back at the CCMA:

When Thami Mlotshwa was asked by a representative at the Dept of Labour – via telephone – when he intended to open the hospital; he responded by saying: “Some time in April 2018.” And that he plans to reappoint only 95% of the staff. 95% works out to all, but two staff members.

That brings me to the following questions:

– If he is planning to open the hospital in April, won’t it be cheaper to pay two months salaries, instead of retrenchment packages?

– Who are the 2 staff members he doesn’t plan to reappoint? Perhaps the two who approached Solidarity?

Estella, the conditions under which we were kept, as per the article, is true.

– No air conditioning

– Restricted exit, and prison-like circumstances

– The windows don’t open properly.

– No flushing toilets

– No running water

My intention in writing this letter to you, is not to point out any mistakes made by the paper, but rather to explain to you. The truth of what was done to staff members behind closed doors.

Perhaps an article could follow that tells our side of the story, or perhaps, even the truth behind the funding of the hospital. Perhaps, it could reflect the side of the IDC’s story as well?

Johann Lubbe

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